You Are Joking, Right?

You Are Joking, Right?

Francisca Gomes barged into the Chief Inspector’s cabin and gave a salute.

“Sir, I apologise, but Dr Oliver Gerhard is dead.”  

Chief Inspector Carlos Oliviera jumped to his feet with a start. “What? Dr Gerhard? Are you sure? What happened and where?”

“His butler just called in, Sir. I have already informed forensics. They will reach his home in half an hour.” 

“Good job, Francisca. Now, get ten men to accompany us. That man had a huge house and garden. We will need as much men on the ground as possible to conduct a proper enquiry. Who is the forensic expert on duty?”

Francisca stammered. “S… Sir, it’s Gustavo dos Santos.”

Carlos cursed in irritation. Gustavo again. 

His irritation was justified, but he could not do anything about it. In many instances in the past, Gustavo had proved Carlos wrong by pointing out minute pieces of evidence which he had overlooked. But Gustavo always treated Carlos with respect due to his age and never bragged about his superior intelligence. Their relation was a love-hate one.

As they passed through the huge gate, Francisca was overwhelmed by the sheer size of the property. We should have called for more men.

 Gustavo came out of the front door as Carlos and Francisca got out of their car. “Good morning, Chief Inspector. Our photographers are almost done with their work. We can start our ground work as soon as your men are ready. Good morning Delegado”, he saluted Francisca with the last words. 

“Good morning, Senhor Gustavo.” Francisca saluted in return. 

Carlos addressed his men. “Five men search the house and the rest search the garden. You know the drill.” Then he turned to Gustavo. “Let’s go and see the body.”

“As you wish. Follow me please.” And they entered the house. Gustavo took them straight to the first floor master bedroom where the body lay beside the window.

“The body was found by the butler, Aaron. He says that he brought tea every day at 6am. But today, when he entered the room, he found Dr Gerhard lying in a pool of blood and called the Policia immediately.” He gestured to Francisca who took the cue. 

“Yes, I had taken the call.” 

All three went up to the body. Carlos looked around. “There is a gun in his right hand. This seems suicide. Why would he commit suicide?”

Gustavo ruffled through his notes. “Yes, a bullet was fired from that gun. Our team will confirm by tomorrow if that was the bullet which killed him. You might want to look at other things, till that time.”

Carlos chuckled. “What other things? It is clear that he committed suicide. Is it important to find out why? The man was a loner. At his age, he must have gone into depression.”

He turned to the butler. “Aaron, is it?” 

The butler bowed down. “, Senhor. It is Aaron da Silva.”

“Did he have any woman in his life? Any friends? Did he invite anyone home last night?”

“No Senhor, the master did not have a wife or any other woman. At home, he always liked to be left alone and played his piano sometimes.”

“So, you did not hear gunshot last night?”

Sí, Senhor. It was raining very heavily last night. There was heavy thunder and lightning. I could not hear any other sound.”

Carlos turned to face Gustavo, who immediately gestured him to come near the body. “There is something you should be looking at.”

“What is it?” Carlos walked up to the window exasperated. 

“The body is here. If it was a suicide…, Aaron, you may please leave us alone now. We will call you if required.”    

Once he was sure Aaron was out of earshot, Gustavo whispered. “If this was suicide, looking at the gun in his right hand, don’t you think he should have fallen to his left side instead of falling back?”

“The bullet pierced his heart, Goddammit! He must have held the gun in front.” He was clearly irritated.

“Then why is blood splattered on the window?” 

Francisca gasped. Carlos was also shocked at this and whispered. “What do you mean?”

Gustavo stood up. “I mean that someone shot him from inside the room and tried to make it look like suicide.”

“Who can it be? Aaron?” Carlos was perplexed. 

“We have to give forensics time till tomorrow to complete all tests.”

Suddenly, one policeman came running into the room. “Sir, we found this rifle outside the gate hidden under the bushes. One round has been fired.”

Before Carlos could react, Gustavo raised his arm. “All right, give it to the forensics for examination.” 

Once he left, Carlos confronted him. “So, you don’t think that rifle is important?” 

But Gustavo was examining the wall, which started from the window and did not seem to hear him. “There is something here, that pricks me. This window is at the end of the room. But if you see from outside, the window seems to be in the middle of the room. Yet, there is nothing after this wall. Don’t you think it is strange?”

Carlos peeped outside the window. Sure enough, Gustavo had hit on something.

Francisca raised her hand. “Should I call Aaron?” 

Gustavo glared at her and shook his head. “Check for anything which seems out of place on this wall.”

The yellow-painted wall did not have any painting hanging from it or any furniture against it. There were rows of random green lines drawn like a grapevine with leaves jutting out from branches. All three of them stepped back and stared at the wall. 

Francisca jumped first. “There! Look!” 

“Now why would someone suddenly paint eyes on a leaf?” Saying this, Gustavo walked upto the wall and pressed the eye with his finger. 

With a creaking sound, a portion of the wall, swivelled open revealing a hidden room on the other side. 

He turned to Carlos, who was dumbstruck. “Shall we, Chief Inspector?” 

As Francisca switched on the lights, all three were shocked at what they saw. Hanging by the wall was a huge portrait of Adolf Hitler. The flag of the Third Riech hung from a pedestal while a grey SS uniform, decorated with many medals and Knight’s Cross insignia, and an umbrella hung from a coat hanger.

Gustavo was perplexed. “What, in Christ’s name, was the doctor hiding in here?” 

Francisca started opening drawers in the huge table, while Carlos and Gustavo rummaged through the many files kept in the shelves. 

Francisca screamed. “Chief Inspector! I got a passport!” 

The two rushed in as she opened the passport. 

Gustavo scratched his head. “Uwe Silbermann? Who the hell is he?” 

He took the passport in his hand and rushed to the body near the window. Carlos followed while Francisca rummaged through the desk. 

“Look, it’s the same person. Look. This man is Uwe Silbermann.”

Carlos shook his head. “This man was my wife’s doctor for four years. I cannot believe he is another person.”

Francisca came out of the room with the umbrella. “Chief Inspector, this seems different from the umbrellas we use. I am not able to open it.” 

Gustavo took one look at it and snatched it away from her. “Give that to me. Stand back. I think we have the murder weapon.”

As he groped into the handle, his fingers touched a button, which opened the umbrella and a single shot was fired, that hit the wall at the opposite end of the room. 

“Jesus Christ!” exclaimed Carlos.

****

“You are joking, right?  Uwe SilbermanThe Angel of Death of Dachau? He was living in Rio as Dr Oliver Gerhard?” A shocked Carlos choked as he repeated what he heard from Francisca.

“Yes, Chief Inspector. As per the Argentine Federal Intelligence, this man escaped to Rio and took the doctor’s  identity after Adolf Eichman was captured by the Mossad in 1960. Forensics confirmed that Aaron had used umbrella pistol to kill him. His fingerprints were all over the hidden room. He confessed that he had kept the pistol in his hand and the rifle outside the gate to divert our attention.”

Letting out a huge sigh, she continued. “Aaron was a member of The Brazilian Jewish Community who had taken an oath to hunt down all Nazis who had escaped the Nuremburg trials. Apparently, he was taken as a butler by the doctor himself, because his previous employers had no complaints about him. He was loyal to the doctor, I mean Uwe Silbermann, till that day. It seems that he came to know of his Nazi credentials and decided to avenge the holocaust victims on his own.”

“But we have our orders, don’t we?” 

“Yes, Chief Inspector. Tomorrow’s newspapers will publish that the doctor succumbed to cardiac arrest while swimming in the sea that night. Nothing else will come out.”

***
Author’s note:
The above is a work of fiction based on real life of Josef Mengele, who was called Angel of Death of Auschwitz due to his inhuman medical experiments on Jewish prisoners in the camp. He had been living in Buenos Aires with Adolf Eichman and other Nazi SS soldiers under a different name. After the Mossad captured Eichman in 1960 and took him to Tel Aviv, Mengele fled to Paraguay and then, to Rio and took the identity of Dr Wolfgang Gerhard. He was buried in Rio under this false name after he died of a cardiac arrest while swimming off the coast of Bertioga in Sao Paolo in 1979. His remains were disinterred and positively identified by forensic examination as Josef Mengele in 1985.

The authorities in Rio and Buenos Aires, initially, refused to accept that Nazis had found a safe haven in their countries. But, with change in Governments, their policies changed and the truth was finally revealed to the world.

Glossary – 

  1. Delegado – Police delegate equal to sub-inspector in Brazil
  2. Senhor – addressing a person as in Mr. Gustavo
  3. Sí – Yes
  4. SS – Schutzstaffel, an organisation of elite soldiers whom Hitler trusted more than the military.
  5. Knight’s Cross – It was the highest awards in military and paramilitary forces of Nazi Germany during WW II. 

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